Federal court dismisses majority of New York man's claims against Boilermakers Union

By Nicholas Malfitano | Feb 11, 2016

Boilermakers Union  

PHILADELPHIA – A New York man who sued his union for work-related injuries and subsequent retaliation and other claims has recently lost the majority of those claims in federal court.

On Jan. 25, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Jan E. DuBois ruled to dismiss with prejudice many of plaintiff James Ciferni’s claims against defendants Boilermakers Local 13, Marty Stanton, Joseph Jacoby and John Clark.

Ciferni was employed as a common arc welder for Boilermakers Local 13 and in 2005, allegedly sustained injuries during a work-related incident. Due to his injuries, he was forced to take time off of work in order to recover, the complaint states.

Ciferni later filed a claim against the union in April 2008 for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), when it allegedly refused to list him as a member after returning to duty with restrictions.

Ciferni and the union settled his claims in December 2008 for $10,000. Per the complaint, in 2012 when Ciferni applied for a shop steward position on an upcoming project, Jacoby informed him he was not qualified because of the 2008 settlement.

In August 2015, Ciferni brought the following claims: retaliation in violation of the ADA; retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; retaliation in violation of the PHRA; conspiracy and obstruction in violation of the PHRA; unfair labor practices in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA); breach of the duty of fair representation in violation of Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA); and breach of the Local 13 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Stanton filed his own motion to dismiss Ciferni’s claims, with Boilermakers Local 13, Jacoby and Clark filing a separate motion to dismiss.

In his analysis, DuBois found individual defendants cannot be held liable under the ADA and all of the individual defendants are employees of Local 13 – and are not themselves employers for Title VII purposes, leading the judge to dismiss the first two of Ciferni’s counts.

However, DuBois rejected Local 13, Jacoby, and Clark’s argument that Ciferni’s PHRA claims must be dismissed because they are pre-empted by the LMRA’s section on violating CBAs.

“The alleged discriminatory acts are facially discriminatory and do not require any interpretation of the ‘meaning or scope of a term’ in the CBA. Thus, the Court concludes that the PHRA claims based on the facially discriminatory conduct alleged in the complaint are not preempted by LMRA,” DuBois said.

Further, DuBois explained that an applicable six-month statute of limitations period rendered Ciferni’s claims under the LMRA and NLRA as null and void, due to lack of jurisdiction.

DuBois also ruled not to strike Ciferni’s demand for a jury trial or the prospect of him receiving punitive damages, because some of the claims remaining in the suit do support such an award.

In conclusion, DuBois ruled to dismiss with prejudice all of plaintiff Ciferni’s claims against Stanton; Ciferni’s claims under ADA and Title VII against defendants Joseph Jacoby and John Clark; and all of Ciferni’s claims under the LMRA, NLRA and for breach of the CBA against all defendants.

The only claims remaining in the suit are an ADA retaliation claim against Local 13, a Title VII retaliation claim against Local 13, and PHRA claims for retaliation and obstruction against Local 13, Jacoby, and Clark.

The plaintiff is represented by Patrick F. Flanigan, in Swarthmore.

The defendants are represented by Samuel L. Spear and Carson Gabriel Campbell of Spear Wilderman in Philadelphia, and Jason R. McClitis of Blake & Uhlig in Kansas City, Kan.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-04807

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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